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Bangladesh pay for confused strategy

Mushfiqur Rahim punches off the back foot WICB

Mushfiqur Rahim did what he set out to do as a batsman in the first Test. He was dismissed only once, after completing his century and in an attempt to extend a futile lead. He was the unbeaten batsman during Bangladesh's first innings debacle, and showed little difficulty in dealing with pace or spin.

As a captain, though, things did not go as planned, and West Indies wrapped up a comfortable 10-wicket win. Bangladesh came into the game with the stated aim of drawing it, but their chances of doing so seemed to shrink as soon as Mushfiqur elected to field first.

Having eight batsmen in their line-up should have been enough reason to bat first after winning the toss. Still, the pitch is always to be considered ahead of a five-day game and Bangladesh's first priority in Test matches is usually to stay in the game for the first couple of days at least. At the toss, Mushfiqur explained his decision to field saying there would be some help for the seamers for a few hours, and that batting would be easiest on the second and third days.

As it turned out in this Test match, the first-day freshness in the Arnos Vale pitch did not mean excessive moisture. It was merely a slow pitch that was at its quickest on the first morning. Mushfiqur's prediction that batting would be easier on the second day was correct, but then West Indies only lost three wickets on the first; Kraigg Brathwaite and Shivnarine Chanderpaul batted through the truncated second day. West Indies lost four wickets on the third morning, but by then they were trying to increase the run-rate.

Even if there was some help for the bowlers early on, Mushfiqur did not possess the resources to exploit it, having chosen only three specialist bowlers. Bangladesh chose a Test debutant in the left-arm spinner Taijul Islam; Al-Amin Hossain, who was playing his fourth Test; and Rubel Hossain, who has struggled to take wickets in Tests and has an average to show for it.

Upon returning to Bangladesh after completing the three ODIs and the abandoned T20, Mashrafe said that pitches in the West Indies were just like those back home. "Wickets in West Indies are not what they used to be," he said. "Now they are slow wickets which help spinners and are good for batting."

Mushfiqur would have known this too, this being his fourth West Indies tour. But senior batsmen like Tamim Iqbal, Nasir Hossain and Mahmudullah had been out of form while Shamsur Rahman and Imrul Kayes hadn't done well in the preceding ODI series. Shuvagata Hom was a newcomer. The team management, therefore, may have been looking to protect them on the first day.

Mushfiqur said the gap between Bangladesh's last Test and this one had a role to play in their first-innings debacle, when they were shot out for 182, but he wasn't impressed with his batsmen's approach.

"It wasn't easy to bat in Test cricket after six months so I would say that our batsmen perhaps fell while trying to get quick runs," he said. "To be honest, the wicket was really good. Our application wasn't right in the first innings. The result would have been different if we applied ourselves in the first innings. We should show similar guts [to the second-innings performance] in St Lucia."

Having failed to secure the draw that both Mushfiqur and coach Chandika Hathurusingha had targeted, Bangladesh will have to alter their goals substantially ahead of the second Test in St. Lucia.

When Ian Bishop asked him at the post-match presentation ceremony whether he would persist with the eight-batsmen strategy, Mushfiqur stressed the need for batting cover in the absence of Shakib Al Hasan. So that would mean, for now at least, that Bangladesh are likely to go into the second Test with the bowling attack similarly understaffed.

Even in the press conference following the presentation, Mushfiqur said he wanted his batsmen to score enough to ensure a draw. "If we can get 600 runs, it should help us draw the game."